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Explicit and Implicit Language – Interpreting the Meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment


Lesson Summary


Students watch two video segments about the Fourteenth Amendment and then write an essay addressing where the amendment is explicit or implicit in meaning.

Why is this an important concept?

Understanding that language can present messages that are both clearly stated and implied in meaning is an important part of critical reading and reading comprehension strategies. When students are able to understand that language includes nuance and “gray” areas in meaning, they are better able to practice and apply critical thinking, ask “big concept” questions and in turn become more open to the possibilities of multiple interpretations in various issues and subject matters.

Grade Level:


Suggested Time

(2-3) 50-minute periods

Media Resources


The Lesson

Part I: Learning Activity #1

Prior to the activity, you may choose to review Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which is discussed in the video segment. You may also want to provide any supplemental materials that will assist students in understanding the issues brought before the Supreme Court during the period following the Civil War.

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person withinits jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

1. Begin by providing definitions of the words “explicit” and “implicit.” Next, discuss with students examples of explicit and implicit language.

  • Explicit - Fully and clearly expressed or demonstrated; leaving nothing merely implied; unequivocal
  • Implicit - implied though not directly expressed; inherent in the nature of something

2. Next, check for prior knowledge by asking students what they know about the American Civil War and why the Fourteenth Amendment was created. Discuss.

3. Tell students that they are going to watch a video segment about the Fourteenth Amendment. While watching the segment, ask students to take notes on what was explicit in the purpose and meaning of the amendment. Play the video “Fourteenth Amendment - Part I” multiple times for understanding.

4. Discuss student responses. Next, distribute the Fourteenth Amendment Explicit Meaning Handout. Students answer questions on the handout about the explicit meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Part II: Learning Activity #2

1. Review the meaning of explicit and present the meaning of “implicit."

2. Next, check for prior knowledge by asking students what they understand about the expression "public accommodations." Discuss with students that even though the Fourteenth Amendment was designed to protect the rights of all American citizens, providing them with equal protections after the Civil War, African Americans and many other groups were not allowed access to public accommodations.

3. Tell students they are going to watch a second video segment. Ask students to take notes on the Supreme Court decision of 1883 and the new view held by the court. Play the video segment “Fourteenth Amendment - Part II” multiple times (if necessary) for understanding.

4. Discuss student responses.

5. Distribute the Fourteenth Amendment Implicit Meaning Handout . Ask students to complete the handout in class or as homework. Divide students into small groups to discuss their responses.

Part III: Assessment

1. Using the Fourteenth Amendment Explicit Meaning handout, the Fourteenth Amendment Implicit Meaning handout, the Fourteenth Amendment Essay Handout, and their notes, students write an essay answering the question "where is the language of the Fourteenth Amendment explicit or implicit in meaning?"

2. Distribute the Fourteenth Amendment Rubric so students will know how they will be evaluated.

3. Completed essays and handouts can be placed in a students’ portfolio to demonstrate skill acquisition.

For students who need additional guidance:

  • Review the terms explicit and implicit, and check for understanding.
  • Watch the video segments as many times as necessary for understanding.
  • In small groups, work with students to complete each handout.
  • For the essay, guide students to develop ideas on either the explicit or implicit language of the amendment.